As the final seconds trickled off the game clock, Kevin Durant put the ball on the floor and crossed the 3-point line.
That alone was a good start.
It was a sign that this last-second look could be different from most of the others.
And it would be.
Durant dropped in an off-balanced 15-foot jumper over Shawn Marion with 1.5 seconds remaining to give the Thunder a 99-98 win over Dallas in Game 1 of this opening-round series on Saturday night inside Chesapeake Energy Arena.
His leaner hit the rim and rattled around atop the cylinder before finally falling in.
As it did, Durant turned and raised both arms in triumph as the Mavericks hustled to inbound the ball and fire up a desperation heave. But as Marion crossed halfcourt, he failed to get off a shot before time expired, prompting confetti to rain down from the rafters signaling a scintillating opening-game victory in what could be a long and hard-fought series.
The final bucket went down as Durant's second, but most significant, game-winning dagger against Dallas this season.
“I just didn't want to settle for a 3 so I just tried to take it closer and shoot a shot,” Durant said. “I got enough arc on it and was able to get it to drop in.”
It was the type of play fans and media alike have been clamoring for Durant to make. It was as high of a percentage shot as Durant realistically could have gotten in that situation, certainly higher than attempts we've seen him hoist in the past.
“I like the fact the he drove to the basket and got to an area he can make that shot,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “It was a great shot. It was contested, but great players make tough shots. That's what he has to do.”
Too many times in the past, Durant has settled. The script is an all-too familiar one. The clock is running low. Durant catches an inbounds pass. He takes a few dribbles out beyond the arc. And he launches a 27-foot prayer as a potential game-winner.
But this time, Durant made the right decision at the most critical time.
“There's at times a tendency to take a 3 when it's not needed,” Brooks said. “But I like the fact he drove to the basket and got to a place where he can pull up above the defender. And if the shot wasn't going in, I thought Serge (Ibaka) had the perfect position for the tip. That's another growth with our team. Just knowing the little things. Sometimes it takes some time.”
As Durant continues to figure it out, there appears to be fewer things the aging Mavericks can throw his way.
“The only other thing we could have done,” said Mavs coach Rick Carlisle, “was double team him and get the ball out of his hands. And we should have done that.”
But how were the Mavs supposed to know Durant would deliver?
Prior to his dagger, Durant was just 9-of-26 from the floor. He had struggled so much that no one could be sure if Durant would simply be a decoy while the final play went elsewhere.
But Durant remained confident.
“I feel confident in myself because I was getting good looks,” Durant said. “Some of them rimmed in and out.”
And this is the playoffs. And on this night, Durant wouldn't be denied.
“No matter how you do it,” Durant said, “you've got to get it done.”